EL MELIK EN NASIR AND THE THREE MASTERS OF POLICE
El Melik en Nasir (55) once sent for the chiefs of the police of New Cairo, Boulac and Old Cairo and said to them, 'I wish each of you to tell me the most remarkable thing that hath befallen him during his term of office.' 'We hear and obey,' answered they. Then said the chief of the police of New Cairo, 'O our lord the Sultan, the most remarkable thing that befell me, during my term of office, was on this wise:
Story of the Chief of the Police of New Cairo
There were once, in this city, two men apt to bear witness in matters of blood and wounds; but they were both given to wine and women and debauchery; nor, do what I would, could I succeed in bringing them to account. So I charged the vintners and confectioners and fruiterers and chandlers and bagnio-keepers to acquaint me of these two, when ever they should anywhere be engaged in drinking or debauchery, whether together or apart, and that, if they or either of them bought of them aught for the purpose of carousal, they should not conceal it from me. And they replied, "We hear and obey."
One night, a man came to me and said, "O my lord, know that the two witnesses are in such a house in such a street, engaged in sore wickedness." So I disguised myself and went out, accompanied by none but my page, to the street in question. When I came to the house, I knocked at the door, whereupon a slave-girl came out and opened to me, saying, "Who art thou?" I made her no answer, but entered and saw the two witnesses and the master of the house sitting, and lewd women with them, and great plenty of wine before them. When they saw me, they rose to receive me, without showing the least alarm, and made much of me, seating me in the place of honour and saying to me, "Welcome for an illustrious guest and a pleasant cup-companion!"
Presently, the master of the house went out and returning after awhile with three hundred dinars, said to me, without the least fear, "O my lord, it is, we know, in thy power both to disgrace and punish us; but this will bring thee nothing but weariness. So thou wouldst do better to take this money and protect us; for God the Most High is named the Protector and loveth those of His servants who protect each other; and thou shalt have thy reward in the world to come." The money tempted me and I said in myself, "I will take the money and protect them this once; but, if ever again I have them in my power, I will take my wreak of them."
So I took the money and went away; but, next day, one of the Cadi's serjeants came to me and cited me before the court. I accompanied him thither, knowing not the meaning of the summons; and when I came into the Cadi's presence, I saw the two witnesses and the master of the house sitting by him. The latter rose and sued me for three hundred dinars, nor was it in my power to deny the debt; for he produced a written obligation and the two others testified against me that I owed the amount.
Their evidence satisfied the Cadi and he ordered me to pay the money; nor did I leave the Court till they had of me the three hundred dinars. So I went away, in the utmost wrath and confusion, vowing vengeance against them and repenting that I had not punished them.'
Then rose the chief of the Boulac police and said, 'As for me, O our lord the Sultan, the most remarkable thing that befell me, during my term of office, was as follows:
Story of the Chief of the Boulac Police
I was once in debt to the amount of three hundred thousand dinars, and being distressed thereby, I sold what was behind me and what was before me and all I could lay my hands on, but could raise no more than a hundred thousand dinars and abode in great perplexity. One night, as I sat at home, in this state of mind, there came a knocking at the gate; so I said to one of my servants, "See who is at the door." He went out and returned, pale and trembling in every nerve; so I said to him, "What ails thee?" "There is a man at the door, seeking thee,' answered he. "He is half naked, clad in skins, with a sword and a knife in his girdle, and with him are a company of the same fashion." So I took my sword and going out to see who these were, found them as the boy had reported and said to them, "What is your business?" "We are thieves," answered they, "and have made great purchase to-night and appointed it to thy use, that thou mayst pay therewith the debts that oppress thee and free thyself from thy distress." "Where is it?" asked I; and they brought me a great chest, full of vessels of gold and silver; which when I saw, I rejoiced and said in myself, "It were ungenerous to let them go away empty-handed."
So I took the hundred thousand dinars I had by me and gave it to them, thanking them; and they took it and went their way, under cover of the night. But, on the morrow, when I examined the contents of the chest, I found them gilded brass and pewter, worth five hundred dirhems at the most; and this was grievous to me, for I had lost what money I had, and trouble was added to my trouble.'
Then rose the chief of the police of Old Cairo and said, 'O our lord the Sultan, the most remarkable thing that befell me, during my term of office, was on this wise:
Story of the Chief of the Old Cairo Police
I once had ten thieves hanged, each on his own gibbet, and set guards to watch them and hinder the folk from taking them down. Next morning, when I came to look at them, I found two bodies hanging from one gibbet and said to the guards, "Who did this, and where is the tenth gibbet?" But they denied all knowledge of it, and I was about to beat them, when they said, "Know, O Amir, that we fell asleep last night, and when we awoke, we found one of the bodies gone, gibbet and all, whereat we were alarmed, fearing thy wrath. But, presently, up came a peasant, jogging along on his ass; so we laid hands on him and killing him, hung his body upon this gibbet, in the stead of the missing thief.'
When I heard this, I marvelled and said to them, "Had he aught with him?" "He had a pair of saddle-bags on the ass," answered they. "What was in them?" asked I and they said, "We know not." Quoth I, "Bring them hither." So they brought them to me and I bade open them, when, behold, therein was the body of a murdered man, cut in pieces. When I saw this, I marvelled and said in myself, "Glory be to God! The cause of the hanging of this peasant was no other but his crime against this murdered man; and the Lord is no unjust dealer with [His] servants."' (56)